House Side

Senate Joint Resolution (SJR 34) by Sen. Julie Daniels (SD 29, Bartlesville) and Rep. Mark Lepak (SD 9, Claremore) sought to propose a state question to create a constitutional amendment changing the current judicial nomination process and leave nominations up to the Governor.  This bill received staunch opposition from civil rights and democracy groups, including the Oklahoma Bar Association (the state’s governing and organizational body for attorneys), who held a lobbying day specifically to oppose it. The bill received many questions and debate from both sides and failed with a vote of 36 ayes and 60 nays. This is a welcome move from our state house, as the current Judicial Nominating Commission is crucial to maintaining checks and balances between the branches of government.

A horrific bill has been making its way through the House chambers. HB 4156 by Rep. Charles McCall (HD 22, Atoka) and Sen. Greg Treat (SD 47, OKC) was shucked (had language replaced) last week in committee. Since the authors include the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore, it was put “direct to calendar” on the house floor, which means it was able to skip all the normal waiting on political games other bills face. It also means it avoids the chance for lobbying and advocacy efforts.

The bill seeks to outdo Texas and their aggressive anti-immigration bill SB 4 which targets individuals without “legal authorization”. It creates a new crime, “impermissible occupation” and establishes fees and a misdemeanor for the first offense, and felony charges, jail time, fees and a 72-hour window to leave the state following the second offense. The bill was presented by Rep. Jon Echols (HD 90, OKC) and he echoed that the nature of this bill is to make Oklahoma an unattractive location for immigrants. Rep. Amanda Swope (HD 71, Tulsa) remarked in debate that the history of our state has always been this way, as a land where many Native Peoples were forced to resettle.

The debate was filled with dehumanizing and harmful rhetoric surrounding immigrant communities in our state. There were also concerns about the language of the bill and how it will embolden racial profiling. This bill focuses more on political points than real world solutions and continues to perpetuate discrimination and xenophobia. Unfortunately HB 4156 passed along party lines, with 77 Ayes (Republican) and 20 Nays (Democrat). It next heads to the Senate, where it will likely skip the committee process and move directly to the Senate floor. We urge our community to contact their state senators immediately and urge them to vote against this bill.

In welcome news, SB 1470 by Sen. Greg Treat and Rep. Jon Echols (HD 90, OKC) passed the House floor last week and is headed to the Governor’s desk. The “Oklahoma Survivor’s Act” will direct courts to evaluate individuals charged with crimes who are survivors of domestic violence to take this into account. This will provide relief for victims who fought back against their abusers and were charged for such actions, as well as additional consideration for other situations where a history of domestic violence is relevant to a defendant’s charge or sentence.

SB 729 by Sen. Darrell Weaver (SD 24, Moore) and Rep. Mark McBride (HD 53, Moore) aims to create a “Oklahoma-Israel Exchange Commission” to “foster relationships between the state and the nation of Israel.” We are in strong opposition to this bill as a waste of valuable resources and legislative time that should be better used elsewhere. Oklahoma has one of the highest poverty rates in the United States, and the second highest uninsured rate for its total population. We rank 6th highest for overall death rate, and consistently have one of the highest rates of pregnancy related deaths and infant mortality. We are also the sixth hungriest state in the nation. This bill will send Oklahomans’ hard-earned money to bolster connections with a regime that is currently carrying out a genocide on the Palestinian people. We need to keep money paid for Oklahomans in our state, especially as we face dire issues in housing, education, and healthcare. Unfortunately, this bill passed with only one no vote from Rep. Mauree Turner (HD 88, OKC). Rep. Turner has continually supported Palestine and opposed bills of this nature that take the focus away from residents here at home. We urge our community to contact their legislators and ask that they follow Rep. Turner’s lead in standing up for our oppressed Palestinian family.

Senate Side

HB 3642 by Rep. Toni Hasenbeck (HD 65, Elgin) and Sen. Greg Treat seeks to include artificially generated images involving children in sexually explicit content to be included in existing statutes of the same topic. This bill has passed unanimously in both chambers and has been sent to the governor.

HB 3671 by Sen. Bill Coleman (SD 10, Ponca City) and Rep. Nicole Miller (HD 82) would create an autism designation on licenses. The author’s aim is to help ease situations with law enforcement. Sen. Julia Kirt did participate in debate, and shared concerns about this bill creating a false sense of security for persons with autism as they interact with law enforcement agents. Furthermore, the definition of the diagnosis is extremely narrow. She also highlighted that more broadly, we need to better ensure the safety of all when it comes to encounters with law enforcement and the necessity of de-escalation. The bill passed 42-0, with a statement to continue changing the language to suit these concerns.

HB 3786 by Rep. John George (HD 36, Newalla) and Sen. Darrell Weaver (SD 24, Moore) extends the timeline for retired police officers’ security training requirements and waives fingerprinting requirements. It changes the time from 1 to 5 years of exemption for training following retirement. The bill received three no votes from Sen. George Young, Sen. Carri Hicks and Sen. Michael Brooks.

With one week left for bills to be heard on the floor in the opposite chamber of their origin, we are likely to see lengthy agendas, long days, and hectic debates. Many advocacy groups are pushing for people to contact their legislators and show up to advocate against some of the heinous legislation that affects ALL OF US. Oklahoma deserves to be Top 10 for all, and we can’t do that without your voice.